Damion, driving the TCR, Gaerte, Weld, black # 45, seems to just get better each week and refuses to back down or lose. He was 2nd quick, won his heat, ran 4th in the JE Passing Masters Dash and took the lead in the 30 lap main on lap 12. He won his 5th out of the last six SCRA races and is ahead of last years win total by two now. The crucial part of this win came after he ran down early leader Rip Williams. Rip was very fast, but Damion reeled him in and struck like a Demon on a restart to get the lead. The two battled side by side for two laps with nary an inch to spare between them. One perfect lap had Rip lead, then Damion, then Rip and Damion again. When they went into turn one on lap 11 Rip was on the outside closely maintaining the middle groove. Damion was pulling ahead as he made the low sling move and Rip attempted to set his car into the turn and come back on him and regain the lead again. Unfortunately, Rip's left front wheel contacted Damion's right rear and suddenly Rip was in trouble and careening into the wall and turning over.
Damion didn't turn in to him as some vociferously thought, he just maintained the position he held for two laps and did not back off. During the red flag stop, the John Jory Corp crew repaired the # 3 car and he started on the tail. Damion went on to capture another big win in the Mike N./Vince L. led team car. A lot of arguments on this incident in the pits, but these top notch drivers continue to run inches apart, week after week, and when something like this happens, half the fans cry foul when it is just another racing incident. It was great excitement with just as big a letdown when Rip was stopped next to the wall. He was able to scream back up to 8th in the 18 laps left.
Richard Griffin continues to fly high and hard every race. The current point leader was hot in his heat that he won, and it looked like he and Rip were the fastest cars on the track early on. Richard, driving the Temecula Valley Pipe & Supply, Arizona Race Mart, Circle C Marketing # 50 looked determined to win this week after chasing that "little black sucker" around the last few weeks. Richard was 3rd quick and looked like he had a good position to win from, but came up short to the short guy with the green flamed helmet for the 2nd race in a row. Troy Rutherford continues to run the top five, this after driving the Roy Miller Freight Lines, Primepilot, Vital Express, # 7 to third place for the second week in a row. Troy's consistency, like he finished 10 of 11 in the top five, has really paid off this year as his maturity level has improved. Perhaps this is due partly to being a daddy, partly due to Mark Priestly's quality car and crew and probably you can throw in his trip back East to run the dry Ohio and Indiana tracks last year. Whatever, he isn't missing any opportunities on the track and still is second in points ahead of the Demon. Look for him to break thru the black and green parade in front of him soon for a bright yellow streak victory for his team.
Super Rickie Gaunt seems to be more focused as he battles every week in the Mark Alexander # 4 car. Rickie is giving it his all as he tries to stay with the front runners and maintains 6th in points at this date in the season. He has five top 5 finishes and ran fourth this week doing everything he could to make it even better. Mike English won the dash after running 4th in his heat and just barely gave up fifth to Rickie at the end of the main. Mike is making the Jory 2nd car look good as he and Rip lined up on the front row of the main event this week shining brightly.
Charles Davis Jr returned for the first time since early in the season. He crashed or thrashed all his equipment early in the year, and with a lot of hard work and determination, has restocked the trailer and is now on the road again. He was whipping up on the 360 boys in Arizona while he gathered parts and rebuilt his cars. He was 2nd in his heat, 7th in the dash and ran 9th in the feature for a smooth uneventful return. Great job for the likeable veteran.
Jack Keene has been around this racing scene for a long time and given his all every moment of his time with us. He has sponsored many sprint cars and even went off to race a truck for a while, but ill health had knocked him to his knees with a bad kidney problem. Thru the proper medicine and mental toughness, Jack has got back to where he is feeling so good, he wanted to get back into racing again. He bought the red Gary W Howard Stinger and put his motor in it and now Gary has a ride again. He was fast out of the box with quick time on the night at 16.858 and then just missed the dash and main transfer with a 5th in his heat. He started on row five and thrashed his way to a well earned 6th this week and Jack and Gary were all smiles on their return to the racing scene. Gary has a new motorhome to tow the race car with and this will make family fun at the races a lot easier. Jack is on the donor list for a new kidney, but feels great and says as long as he does, they will go racing!
Bad news boys this week, or those who had their problems, included many of the fan favorites. Steve Ostling was back in the teams preferred "Okie" car, but the darn thing wouldn't complete more than a lap each time he fired up the blue and white # 29. They swapped out all the suspected electronics, but never found the problem. As soon as Steve got back out and went a lap at speed, the thing would starve for fuel. They aren't even sure it was a fuel problem, but that's where they will look. The team is not planning on the tour again this season, mostly because of the dollars it takes to make the trip, but are usually fighting for the win each week.
Brian Venard's streak of strong main finishes ended this week when the car started stumbling in the semi and he had to pull off. It was his 29th birthday and we missed the cake celebration afterwards because I got caught up in lots of things and forgot. Brother Steve Venard was one spot short of making the main as the brothers were forced to watch from the top of the trailer this week and Grandma Rosie was very disappointed.
Tony Jones looked the best he has in a while as they made what he called wholesale changes on the Ferreira Dairy # 2 car. He was 7th quick, 2nd in his heat, 3rd in the dash and was hooked up in the main running strong in 5th when the muffler fell off. *#+*&%##** Man what does he have to do to finish a race? By the time he got a new muffler/header installed, he was down a lap and still came back to get 17th in the main. He said the team has a new Maxim coming in two weeks, hopefully, and knows this will put him back up front near the podium where he belongs.
Again Mike Kirby had his problems in Buzz Shoemaker's Orange crate # 0 car. Mike pulled off in his heat, then was hooked up in the semi to transfer to the main. Here, he ran strong until another problem knocked him out. I can't explain what happened, even though I was told, but something that was important got nailed and broken on the motor and next week there will be a higher body piece to protect it from happening again? This emerging team needs a little luck, but I warn you, when they get it all ironed out, watch out!!!!
Marc Hart was really having one of his best runs in a long time this week. He was 3rd in his heat before running strong in the main when something appeared to break and he went right straight into the third turn wall, ending his night. He did garner the Wagtimes shiny tire award for the week. Mike English got the runner-up bottle for his sparkling effort.
Lance Gremett was minding his own biz this week when he encountered a little biking lift in turn three and before he could stop it, the car turned over fairly lightly. It wasn't too light as they didn't make it back for the semi. Another team looking for a little sponsorship help.
Bruce Fischer of the Fischer Motorsports team, pointed out that four cars parked next to each other this week, His # 29 car, Verne Sweeney's # 98, Lance's # 85 and one more that escapes me, all had bad nights. Maybe they should split up next time?
You know how I don't like those companion cars that sometimes run with us? One reason is that it screws up the momentum of the night. It is nice that they run the SCRA feature first to make sure we get it in, but then people leave and miss the other main, then don't get to go to the pits later. If we ran our race last, at least some of the families wouldn't give up and go home. This week it looked like a ghost town up in the grandstands from my view in the pits as the 20 lapper took the usual 35 or so minutes to wrap up. I just think if you want the crowd to stay involved, you have to make the sprint cars last on the program, weather permitting. Of course a realistic 20 laps or 20 minutes would make the other features get their show on in a timely manner or hit the trailer. This week was somewhat of a pleasure with the lightning sprints show because a fellow work friend, Jon Bates ran third in his # 33 yellow Suzuki powered bomb. Great job as he did a good job and I was proud for him. Yes the Wagsmule made its first PAS appearance and I want to say thanks to Jim Naylor for the great polka dot deco job, Randy Davis for making it run fine and getting home from Ventura, Glen Bothwell for the official Kawasaki added parts, and everyone who assisted me in making it happen. You don't even want to hear what it took to trailer that beauty out there! Check my Wagtimes Newsletter column that will be out by Tuesday for the real story. That long hike out thru the hot pit to sign in each week is no longer! Now we can save our energy for other things besides exercising in the heat as the summer comes and enjoy the races more and more. Now, if I can just get my trailer refurb'd and on the road, I'll be ready.
Ron Didonato was pretty racy this week. He made the main and started 21st, but hot footed it up to 14th at the end to earn the hard charger of the week award. Ron is so busy, it is hard for him to get to the races each week, without being exhausted. This week he took a nap after arriving and that must have given him a boost for the night.
The shiny tires were boss this week as many participated in the rainbow parade. The cars of Rickie Gaunt, Rodney Argo, Richard Griffin, Troy Rutherford, Ron Didonato, Jimmy Crawford and a bunch more were in the running for the top two. Wagsbucks went over $200 and will be given to Bobby Ferro next time we see him as he was gone before I could get to him this week. A big thanks to all who continue to support my effort to help the racers as I know giving up money is tough now and your help is much appreciated.
The following is a reprint from an Arizona newspaper. Click here. Lealand "The Tempe Tornado" McSpadden needs your prayers and well wishes now. Send your well wishes to Lealand @: 16231 E. Via De Palmas, Gilbert, AZ 85297.
Don't forget the last Tulare trip of the year is next and it is well worth the short 3 hour drive up there. You won't find a racier track that supports sprint cars while trying to build the crowds in an area they like stock cars better. Lets all get in the car and head up for a race you won't forget. They have great grandstands and I hear the food is OK. Can anyone stop the Demon, he has a handle on that place with the most laps led the last two trips up there, with an almost win and a big win, he will be the one to watch. Also look for Rip to go after him as they had a good battle there earlier in the year and Rip wants to get that next big win on his scorecard. We will probably go up late Friday night and be cookin' out in the pits at noon on Saturday. You will love that Faria hospitality and the local drivers who would love to try to keep the money home.
The 30 lap feature finish order
1. Damion Gardner. 2. Richard Griffin. 3. Troy Rutherford. 4. Rickie Gaunt, 5. Mike English. 6. Gary W. Howard. 7. Mike Spencer. 8. Rip Williams. 9. Charles Davis, Jr. 10. Kevin Urton. 11. Alan Ballard. 12. Josh Ford. 13. Levi Jones. 14. Ron DiDonato. 15. Adam Mitchell. 16. Bryan Stanfill. 17. Tony Jones. 18. Mark Heidenreich. 19. Jimmy Crawford. 20. Marc Hart. 21. Mike Kirby. 22. Seth Wilson.
Laps Led: Williams 1-11, Gardner 12-30
2003 SCRA Point Standings as of: 06/07/03
1. Richard Griffin 767, 2. Troy Rutherford 735, 3. Damion Gardner 696, 4. Rip Williams 603, 5. Steve Ostling 540, 6. Rickie Gaunt 500, 7. Mike Spencer 494, 8. Mike English 486, 9. Levi Jones 364, 10. Tony Jones 356, 11. Adam Mitchell 317, 12. Josh Ford 271, 13. Brian Venard 263, 14. Verne Sweeney 241, 15. Lance Gremett 241, 16. Alan Ballard 226, 17. Bryan Stanfill 221, 18. Cory Kruseman 211, 19. Rodney Argo 200, 20. Charles Davis, Jr 197.